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Is Overeating Compulsive?
Two plus two equals four. Calories in add weight, calories out take weight off. Simple, essential, direct and clear. You don’t want to gain weight, don’t eat more calories than you burn. The calories you drink matter too. Want to lose weight, burn more than you take in. So, what is the problem? Why is obesity epidemic in this country?
There are all sorts of “extenuating circumstances,” reasons, excuses used by overweight Americans.
“I’m too busy to exercise.”
Answer: “so don’t eat so much and walk or cycle more, get moving, burn a few more units of energy, stop sitting so much and driving everywhere you go.”
“I’m too busy to cook, so I have to eat ‘fast food’.
Answer: “Fast food can be the healthy stuff like veggies and some form of protein. Try chicken over salad…don’t kill it with hundreds of calories of dressing.”
“Healthy foods are too expensive”, “I can’t stand hunger”, “every time I diet, I lose weight and then put it back on”. And I love this one, “It’s my (thyroid) gland problem.”
Answer: “Get it fixed! Thyroid supplement is one of the cheapest drugs on the market!”
It’s true that an adequate balance of protein, healthy fats and carbohydrates, vitamins and minerals helps us maintain our health and feel better, even while losing weight. Much of the food in our country is processed, filled with crap that provides minimal nutrition for maximum calories. Food is ubiquitous, even more so than alcohol. Pay attention to what you put in your mouth. Educate yourself on that piece; learn to eat real food, unprocessed, fresh, healthy, and in reasonable amounts for your activity level. Tempted to manage stress with too many of your favorite comfort foods? Try exercising and talking to a friend instead. No, changing behavior is not easy. If it were easy, everyone would do it. Still worth it. Call or text me if you have specific questions.
So moderately overweight folks, you have a choice. You can stick with your excessive, low-calorie lifestyle, or you can switch. Stop complaining. You know what to do. If you ever decide to actually do it, give yourself a break and set yourself up for success: get support, join one of the local weight loss challenges, or start your own; organize a date at the gym or a walk every day with friends. Do something.
Change what you take in and what you burn. Hey, I never said it was easy, just that you can do it!!
And the real disease (disease) of compulsive overeating? Some overeaters are grossly obese, others are of normal weight, either because they are bulimic, throw themselves up, use laxatives or exercise excessively. They can take in 10,000 calories in one sitting, only to kick right after and not gain weight. As I said earlier, addicts are different. Compulsive eaters, bulimic or otherwise, are attempting to cover up the pain and fill a void with food (see July 21, 2008 article, Fill the Void with Spirituality). Food does not fill “The Void”. Grief, anger, loneliness and self-hatred cannot be covered up by food any more than by alcohol. Overeating can leave you feeling physically full temporarily, but soon the emotional and spiritual emptiness returns. Keep eating, stay empty. Does not work. Many people talk about “emotional eating”; an extra serving at dinner or a dessert refill at exam time or before starting a new job, or a chocolate bar or milkshake when stressed are all normal values. The keywords here are “a” and “a,” not “a dozen” or “every day.” Drug addicts, compulsive eaters, don’t stop there. Compulsive eaters consume most of their calories alone, acting “normal” when eating with other people, but eating many thousands of calories in isolation. Trying day after day to fix something, trying to fill the void with food only increases the self-hatred and emptiness. Affecting every aspect of life, affecting every relationship, and taking up a high percentage of the space in your brain, compulsive overeating is as painful a disease as any other addiction.
An expert gastroenterologist (stomach specialist) says compulsive eaters are victims of abuse, often sexual abuse, until proven otherwise. If it’s you, it’s not your fault! You deserve help… help to sort out your past, deal with your anger and emptiness, and find a way to stop hurting yourself. Childhood abuse, whether physical, sexual or emotional, distorts the thinking of even the most intelligent and logical of adults. Books have been written on this subject and perhaps I will write some of it in another article; for today’s purposes, just know that there is recovery.
Find a counselor, therapist, doctor, or recovering overeater who can help you overcome your specific history. Use whatever spiritual or religious tools you have. Take them out, clean them and use them. Get more if yours don’t work. There is help. I promise. Recovery will be the hardest thing you’ve ever done…and the most valuable. It’s worth it. You’re worth it.
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